Bridges on a Camel Road
Hiking in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains, near Lemesos or Pafos, you will come across a number of rivers weaving their way to the sea, through the countryside. Where there is a river there is bound to be bridge. Most of the island’s beautiful bridges are relatively hard to find and certainly off the beaten track. However, this discovering adventure simply adds to their charm.
There are three beautiful medieval bridges hidden in idyllic, forested areas that have an interesting connection. You can discover them if you hike the Venetian Bridges nature trail (linear, length: 17km, duration: 6 hours, decree of difficulty 3). It is hard to imagine that these scenic bridges were once part of the bustling with activity “Kamilostrata” (=camel route), the commercial route that was used by camel caravans in the Middle Ages transporting mined ore from the village of Pera Pedi to the ports of Pafos and Polis for export. Camel caravans are not something one would associate with Cyprus. However, the camel, being a resistant and strong animal, was widely used on the island, both in the mountains and on the planes, to transport heavy goods. Being a “Kamilaris” (the camel caravan owner and guide) was a lucrative profession and the trait was passed from father to son. Imagine that Makarios Avenue in Limassol, one of the largest and busiest streets of the modern city, was once a camel road!
Following the Heartland of Legends Route in the mountains of Pafos, you will come across the beautiful Venetian Bridge of Tzelefos. Situated in a serene environment, under a canopy of trees, the Venetian “Tzelefos Bridge” is the island’s biggest and most known medieval bridge. It is built on the Diarizos River (rather a torrent than a river) that springs from the top of the Troodos Mountains. The “Tzelefos Bridge” is easily accessible; an asphalted road takes you there. The origin of its name is lost in history, though most likely it comes from the ancient Greek word “Kelefos” which means frail.
The “Elia (Olive) Bridge” is located on the Foiniotis Torrent, 4 kilometers from Kaminaria village and 2 kilometers from the “Tzelefos Bridge”. There are carved crosses on both sides of the Bridge. The reflections of the rich vegetation of the area in the calm waters of the river create a mesmerizing three-dimensional image and the playful touch of the sun on the leaves of the trees towering above you, might make you feel surrounded by tree fairies.
If you continue, you will finally arrive at the “Roudias bridge”, the last of the three Bridges of the old “Kamilostrata” route. The bridge is situated 3 kilometers from the village of Vretsia in a secluded and lush area in the Pafos forest. The bridge is built on the Xeros river on which also the Asprokremmos dam was built (the second largest dam in Cyprus), however water flows under the bridge even during the hottest summer months. Xeros River springs from Tripylos, the highest peak of the Pafos forest and flows under the bridge through an exposed blanket of old tree roots, pines and hardwoods. The name Roudia comes from the Greek name of the shrub “rhus coriaria” (Sicilian sumac). This shrub, whose leaves and bark were used in leather tanning and dying, was one of the main income sources of the region during the Venetian period. The fruit, sumac (soumatzi) is dried and crushed, and is a popular spice with sour taste; the Romans used to use it for vinaigrettes since Europeans did not have lemons yet.
Bridges have always connected people, cultures and ideas. Throughout the European continent, there is a great number of historic bridges, arches, and gateways bringing people together. Fictional bridges of different architectural periods and styles are depicted as symbols on the European Union banknotes. Follow the Venetian Bridges along the Heartland of Legends Route and become part of our European vision of connecting people.